Grow DeSoto is helping minority-owned businesses get started, even in the COVID-19 pandemic

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Written by Tyler Carter Tyler Carter
Published: 17 December 2020 17 December 2020

DeSoto, TX - Grow DeSoto Market Place, a small-business incubator that launched two years ago, has become a one-stop shop for the city’s residents.  It houses more than seven restaurants, 17 office spaces and 22 retailers, including a hair salon, a gym and an art studio that serves wine.

The incubator was created in October 2018 and was the brainchild of late Mayor Curtistene McCowan, said Terry J. Toomey, an onsite business consultant for Grow DeSoto.

Had it not been for McCowan listening to the community’s wishes, Toomey said the space, which used to be an Ace Hardware, would have become a dollar store instead of a hub for minority business owners.

“The goal was to create an option for small businesses where they could get started with affordable rents, get business mentoring and receive ongoing training,” Toomey said. “Each business owner must make a sales pitch to a committee for consideration. It is important to support small start-up businesses and provide them with tools to help them learn about business and grow.”

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Late Mayor Curtistene McCowan and Mayor Pro Tem Kenzie Moore III are seen welcoming Vietnamese Restaurant Pho ThaiBinh to Grow DeSoto in this 2019 file photo.(City of DeSoto)

Small businesses get mentoring and real-world advice with programs designed to support business owners, Toomey said.

Developer Monte Anderson and the DeSoto Economic Development Corporation conceptualized the 26,000-square-foot space that has room for about 60 businesses.

Growth is important for the tenants to succeed, but they know they will someday have to spread their wings and leave the nest.

“Our mission is to assist the small business to grow so they can expand to a larger facility outside of the incubator. We are almost at capacity in the restaurant and retail area,” Toomey said. “As businesses leave, we have a waiting list of people who want to establish businesses. Our growth strategy is to help these businesses graduate to a larger space or to a space outside of the Grow DeSoto Marketplace.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt businesses across the country, but the marketplace has helped small businesses weather the economic downturn, Toomey said.

“The failure rate of small businesses in the first year is very high,” she said. “We have done well in keeping them in business longer than average and we work with them when they work with us to help them get over stressful times. During COVD-19, we deferred rent during the shutdown and put those payments on the end of their contracts.”

The city benefits by keeping businesses — and tax revenue — in the community.

“If you want to see living examples of DeSoto’s innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, all you have to do is visit the Grow DeSoto Marketplace,” DeSoto Mayor Pro Tem Kenzie Moore III said. “What we are doing at Grow DeSoto stands out nationally and has served as a role model for many other such developments.”

Last spring, a business group from Milwaukee visited Grow DeSoto to learn more about the marketplace, Moore said. Their goal was to take what they learned and use it to ignite a similar small business hub in their community.

Business owners in Grow DeSoto said every business wants to see its neighbors in the marketplace succeed.

“It’s like family here — we’re like neighbors,” Carlonda Marshall of 2 Neighbors Hot Chicken said. “We just kind of support each other and it’s really cool to all be together like this where you have neighbors where you can go borrow whatever you need if you’re out of it. We’re not in competition here because we all sell different things. We all want to see each other win.”

Grow DeSoto Market Place is located at 324 E. Belt Line Road. growdesoto.org.

Source: Dallas Morning News